How an Australian mom was conned out of $11,000 by a seemingly innocent text message she thought was from her daughter: Here’s how you can make sure it doesn’t happen to you
- Mom was tricked into transferring $11,600
- Scammers sent a text posing as daughter
- The ‘Hi Mom’ scam is one of many circulating
A loving mother has fallen victim to cruel scammers who stole $11,600 posing as the woman’s daughter, even sending love heart emojis to make it more convincing.
Victorian mother Nina Merrilees, who lives near the state’s border with New South Wales, said she was busy at work when she received what appeared to be an innocent text message from her daughter.
The message that appeared on Ms. Merrilees’ phone via WhatsApp read: “Hello mom, my phone is broken, this is my new number.”
Ms Merrilees, a mother of two, said this type of message from her daughter, who lives in New Zealand, was not uncommon.
“With our daughter, that’s pretty standard practice,” Ms Merrilees told Channel Seven.
“She has lived abroad for quite a few years and she lost her phone, broke her phone…so this was normal to get a new number from her.”
Victorian mother Nina Merrilees lost £11,600 to a scammer posing as her daughter, who lives in New Zealand
The person posing as Ms Merrilees’ daughter asked her to make some urgent payments as the phone was new and did not have a banking app installed.
Again, this did not strike Mrs. Merrilees as anything out of the ordinary.
“I’m not sure about other parents, but we often make payments for our children and we always get our money back right away,” she said.
Mrs. Merrilees also knew that her daughter was buying a dog with her husband and assumed that the money was for that.
The scammer said they had payments due that day and peppered the text messages with love heart emojis to keep up the facade of being Ms Merrilees’ daughter.
The mother-of-two sent the sums of $3,450, $3,800 and $4,350 using the Osko online payment system, while the person posing as the daughter promised to return it all immediately the next day.
During the text conversation, the scammer kept up the facade by peppering the messages with emojis of love hearts and smiley faces.
Despite sending the money, Ms. Merrilees felt uncomfortable with the transaction and emailed her daughter immediately afterward.
Her daughter immediately called Ms. Merrilees using her old phone number.
“As soon as I saw that number, I knew I had been scammed out of $11,600 and I felt physically sick,” said Ms. Merrilees.
Scammers have used WhatsApp (pictured) where they play the son or daughter, telling them they have a new phone number and to delete the old one.
Ms. Merrilees immediately informed her bank about the scam, but has yet to recover the money.
As a public service, Ms. Merrilees has decided to warn others by sharing her story.
“My advice is perhaps not to act immediately,” Ms Merrilees said.
“We thought we were pretty connected people and it can happen so easily.”
A Scamwatch spokesperson said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) received more than 9,700 reports of ‘Hello Mum’ scams in 2022, with total losses of nearly $7.2 million.
“Victims are contacted, most often via WhatsApp, by a scammer posing as a family member or friend,” the spokesperson said.
‘They will claim that they have lost or damaged their phone and that they are communicating from a new temporary number.
“The scammer will ask for personal information, such as money, to help pay an urgent bill or replace your phone.”
Scamwatch said anyone who receives a message from a number they don’t recognize should independently verify the contact by contacting the person purporting to be the messenger.
Another way to thwart a potential scammer is to ask a question that only the child knows and insist that they answer it.
HOW TO AVOID BEING SCAMMED BY TEXT
1. Do not reply directly to any spam text messages
2. Do not give out any personal information
3. Don’t click any links in a text message
4. Be careful what you say any text from an unknown number